Stephen Allen Benson
|Stephen Allen Benson|
|2nd President of Liberia|
January 7, 1856 – January 4, 1864
|Vice President||Beverly Page Yates
Daniel Bashiel Warner
|Preceded by||Joseph Jenkins Roberts|
|Succeeded by||Daniel Bashiel Warner|
|3rd Vice President of Liberia|
January 2, 1854 – January 7, 1856
|President||Joseph Jenkins Roberts|
|Preceded by||Anthony D. Williams|
|Succeeded by||Beverly Page Yates|
May 21, 1816|
Cambridge, Maryland, United States
|Died||January 24, 1865
Grand Bassa County, Liberia
Stephen Allen Benson (May 21, 1816 – January 24, 1865) served as the 2nd President of Liberia from 1856 to 1864. Prior to that, he served as the 3rd Vice President of Liberia from 1854 to 1856 under President Joseph Jenkins Roberts.
Benson was born in Cambridge, Maryland, United States, to free African American parents. In 1822, his family expatriated to the newly created country of Liberia, on the ship Brig Strong. Shortly after his arrival in August 1822, the colony was taken over by African natives, holding Benson and his relatives captives for four months.
For four years, he was a military shopkeeper. He was also a private secretary to Thomas Buchanan, the last of Liberia's white governors. Benson later became a successful businessman. Benson joined the militia in 1835 and in 1842 became a delegate to the Colonial Council. After Liberia's independence in 1847 he became a judge. He was also a Methodist preacher.
In 1853 Benson became the vice president to Joseph Jenkins Roberts, and after Roberts left office in 1856 Benson succeeded Roberts as president.
Benson obtained the recognition of Liberia from Belgium in 1858. In 1862 Benson also achieved diplomatic recognition from the United States. That same year he visited Europe, and obtained recognition from Italy. Norway and Sweden recognized Liberia either in 1863 or 1849, Haiti in 1864 or 1849 (accounts differ).
Expansion; relations with indigenous people
In 1857 Benson organized the annexation of Republic of Maryland. Benson, who knew many indigenous languages, sought collaboration with the native tribes, in contrast to previous Liberian policy, which emphasized American-Liberian superiority and Western customs. Regrettably, this new policy remained largely unimplemented. By 1860, through treaties and purchases with local African leaders, Liberia had extended its boundaries to include a 600 mile (1000 km) coastline.
Whereas government revenue decreased as a result of the restrictive law, increased military spending to suppress the numerous revolts and wars added to the public deficit. This deteriorated an already precarious financial situation. Consequently, the Liberian Government faced financial bankruptcy on more than one occasion. The overall Liberian economy was also contracting during these years, as palm kernel oil exports to the U.S. declined. This was due to competition from the whale oil industry and the new mineral oil industry, still in its infancy. Whereas palm kernel oil was once a prized source for lantern light oil, market tastes had changed. This would also prove true of certain coffee exports, as Coffee Arabica would replace blends grown and traded locally as the world markets flavor of choice after this period.
- see also History of Liberia, external links
- S. A. Benson, President of Liberia article in National Magazine, April 1856, pages 311-317
Anthony D. Williams
|Vice President of Liberia
Joseph Jenkins Roberts
|President of Liberia
Daniel Bashiel Warner